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NHNE News Brief 64
Friday, June 6, 1997

"A thought-provoking exploration
of the extraordinary times in which we live."

Millennium Countdown:
939 days until January 1, 2000

Total Paid Subscribers: 135
Total Online Update Mailing List: 816

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CONTENTS:
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QUOTABLES:
"Very Funny, Scotty"

NEWS WATCH:
Stone Age Spears Found
Human DNA Planted in Mice
Germ Unstoppable?

NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
Weddings in Sedona

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Tracking Remote Viewers
New Contacts for my Radio Show

UFO WATCH:
Roswell's 50th Anniversary

CROP CIRCLE WATCH:
The Final Word on Oliver's Castle Video?

PSI WATCH:
Is the Bible a Secret Code?

WEATHER WATCH:
El Nino Brewing Again?

HEALTH WATCH:
A Better Way to Die

MILLENNIUM NOTES:
Millennium Bug Countdown

TECH WATCH:
Small Fry
Women & Technology

SPACE WATCH:
New Class of Comets: Friend or Foe?

NHNE STAFF
ABOUT NHNE & HOW TO JOIN US

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QUOTABLES:
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"Very funny, Scotty. Now beam down my clothes."

---From a Bumper Sticker

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NEWS WATCH:
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STONE AGE SPEARS FOUND
(Source: DISCOVER, 6/97)

Hartmut Thieme, an archeologist at the INSTITUTE OF HISTORICAL PRESERVATION in Germany has made an astounding find in a coal field near Hanover -- a cache of perfectly-preserved 400,000-year-old wooden spears. The spears represent the oldest wooden weapons in existence and owe their perfect preservation to an airtight layer of peat which covered the sediments in which the weapons were found. The spears range in length from six to seven and half feet and were made from the trunks of spruce trees. The spears were carefully constructed, with most of their weight in the front end, and were designed to be thrown like a javelin, not thrust at their targets. In the same vicinity of the spears, smaller stabbing weapons were found as well as stone butchering tools, the remains of ten butchered horses and several fireplaces. Crafting weapons and using butchering tools are skills considered to have originated with modern humans only 50,000 years ago. The tools most likely belonged to a late form of Homo erectus, who up to now was thought to have been a scavenger. "Now we have proof that sophisticated hunting strategies started very early," says Thieme. (JG)

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HUMAN DNA PLANTED IN MICE
(Sources: Malcolm Ritter, ASSOCIATED PRESS via AOL NEWS, 5/29/97; USA TODAY, 5/30/97)

Scientists have managed to insert large chunks of human DNA in mice, an astonishing breakthrough that will allow a new generation of research into genes, birth defects and genetic diseases. Some of the newly developed mice have a complete human chromosome, which contains 50 times the amount of DNA scientists had been able to transfer previously. Not only did the transplanted genes work normally, but some of the mice were also able to pass the chunks of human DNA onto their offspring. Nearly all the mice looked normal, though some males had small testes and were sterile. Scientists didn't think that chromosome-size chunks of DNA from one mammal could settle in permanently in a different mammal and still function normally. The work was reported in the June issue of NATURE GENETICS by scientists at the KIRIN BREWERY CO. in Yokahama, Japan. The scientists wanted to create mice that made human versions of blood proteins called antibodies. The proteins could be useful in medicine, but the implications of the work go far beyond that, to allowing new kinds of studies of how genes work normally and in disease, eventually resulting in new medical treatments. The Japanese scientists say they are already developing mice with a human chromosome 21 to investigate Down syndrome, which is caused by having an extra copy of that chromosome. (JG)

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GERM UNSTOPPABLE?
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via AOL NEWS, 5/28/97)

The bacterium responsible for most hospital-related infections is close to becoming unstoppable, according to scientists at the U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC), who confirmed that Staphylococcus aureus, also known as a staph infection, has for the first time defended itself from Vancomycin, the last drug that can kill all its strains. "We have a situation which is very worrisome," said Fred Tenover, a microbiologist and Laboratory Chief of the CDC's HOSPITAL INFECTIONS BRANCH. It's the first time the possibility of an unstoppable infection has surfaced since penicillin became widely used in the 1940s. Staphylococcus aureus usually lives peacefully within the human body, but becomes dangerous when it slips through an open wound or sore. Before antibiotics came along, a staph-related boil could have been fatal. The newly discovered strain was found in a Japanese infant who developed the infection after heart surgery. "Just because it's in Japan doesn't mean anything," said Dr. Michael Edmond of the MEDICAL COLLEGE OF VIRGINIA. "Whenever we talk about the problem of antibiotic resistance, it's a global problem." The CDC is drafting new guidelines to deal with possible vancomycin-resistant staph strains. (JG)

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NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
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This issue sponsored by:

WEDDINGS IN SEDONA

Exchange your vows of commitment among the natural splendor of Sedona, Arizona. Our goal is to make this special day memorable, relaxing and romantic. Sedona is truly a magical place to begin your married life. We take care of all the details for small intimate weddings to large celebrations shared with family and friends. Our ministers are non-denominational and our ceremony is spiritually oriented. Arizona is also friendly to weddings. No waiting period and no residency is required. "Weddings in Sedona" is owned by Sandy Ezrine, who works with professionals of all types to create the wedding that you desire.

WWW: www.wedguide.com/sedona.html
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Phone: (800) 973-3762

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Would you like to sponsor an issue of the wildly popular NHNE News Brief? Send an email message to "nhne@nhne.com" and write "Send Sponsor Info" in the SUBJECT field of your letter.

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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TRACKING REMOTE VIEWERS

"I was impressed by the work you did when you analyzed Scallion's predictions for his percentage of accuracy. Are you planning to do anything similar with the Ed Dames/Courtney Brown remote viewing crowd? It would be very interesting to see if they are any better than Scallion."

---Keith McCoy, Orlando, Florida

[This is an interesting suggestion. Remote viewers have had a number of glaring misses recently (such as Ed Dames' prediction that a lost military jet would be found in Arizona and Courtney Brown's prediction that TWA 800 was the victim of a terrorist attack), but most of their predictions are too vague to be labelled as hits or misses. (For more details, see our 30-page Special Report on Remote Viewing on our Web site.) For this reason, we had not planned to formally track the success rate of remote viewers as we have done with Scallion. However, if you or someone else feels called to do this, we would be interested in hearing the results of the research. James Gregory]

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NEW CONTACTS FOR MY RADIO SHOW

"NHNE has been a valuable source of information for me, keeping me updated on the latest news and info in the whole 'New Age' area, and even providing me with new contacts for guests for my Radio Show 'The Psychic Eye.' It is a pleasure to continue my support of your very good, highly-intentioned efforts and renew my one-year subscription to the News Brief."

---Rev. Staci Wells OM, CHt, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

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UFO WATCH:
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ROSWELL'S FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY
(Source: Michael Lindemann, CNI NEWS, 6/1/97)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the incident at Roswell that triggered the modern study of UFOs. To mark the event -- a crash and recovery of an unusual object that many believe was an extraterrestrial spacecraft, complete with alien bodies -- a stellar lineup of conference speakers will be the highlight of a six-day "Roswell UFO Encounter," July 1 - 6.

A film festival kicks off the Encounter on July 1 and 2. Six films -- five vintage UFO classics plus the acclaimed TV movie "Roswell" -- will be shown. The research conference features the following speakers from July 3 - 5: Erich von Daniken: "Chariots of the Gods," Lance Strong Eagle Crawford: "Native American Interdimensional Realities," Michael Lindemann: Discovering Our Cosmic Neighbors -- A Scientific Perspective," Paul Davids: "Breakthroughs in Roswell UFO Research," Dr. John Mack: "Studying Intrusions from Another Realm," Whitley Strieber: "Roswell 50 Years On -- What Have We Accomplished?" Budd Hopkins: "50 Years After Roswell -- What We Know About UFO Abductions?" Robert O. Dean: "The Greatest Story Never Told -- UFOs, Official Secrecy and the People's Right to Know," Donald Schmitt: "Roswell -- What If the Air Force Is Lying Again?" Linda Moulton Howe: "High Strangeness -- Glimpses of Other Realities" and Stanton Friedman: " Fifty Years of Flying Saucers."

The Encounter will also include a wide variety of other activities during the six days of festivities, such as: the production of "Ezekiel's Wheels" in Roswell's Pueblo Auditorium, "UFO Crash and Burn" downhill spacecraft race with $3,000 in prizes, "UFO Expo" in the Roswell Convention Center, and daily tours to the "crash site" on the Hub Corn Ranch.

For more information call: 1-888-ROSWELL.

One person who will not be an official speaker at the "Roswell UFO Encounter," but whose book will, no doubt, be widely discussed, is Colonel Philip Corso, author of "The Day After Roswell." Michael Lindemann of CNI NEWS, upon reading an advance copy, made this comment: "If Corso can be believed, his story blows the lid off Roswell, government UFO secrecy, and the ongoing reality of extraterrestrial visitors."

Many readers will be frustrated by the fact that much of what Corso says cannot be confirmed. To his credit, Corso does have credibility -- he served with distinction during World War II and the Korean War, and was a member of the White House NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL under President Eisenhower. In 1961, as a Lt. Colonel and a highly trusted military intelligence officer just returned from four years duty in Germany, Corso joined the staff of Lt. General Arthur Trudeau at the Pentagon. Trudeau, head of the Army's RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT, put Corso in charge of the Foreign Technology desk and immediately gave him an unexpectedly bizarre assignment. Pointing to a filing cabinet in his office, Trudeau said to Corso, "This has some special files you've never seen before." The filing cabinet was packed with dossiers pertaining to, and samples of wreckage recovered from, the alien craft that crashed near Roswell in 1947. It had languished in the Army's possession from 1947 to 1961, because no one could be trusted with such sensitive material. Corso's assignment: decide how to deal with the contents. From 1961 to 1963, Corso took it upon himself to break the logjam by secretly distributing various pieces of wreckage to scientists and industrial entities who were known to be trustworthy. There, the wreckage was back-engineered into startling new human technologies. Corso claims that those wreckage samples led directly to the development of fiber optics, integrated circuits, night-vision goggles and the laser, among other things.

Corso also confirms the existence of the super-secret oversight group usually called "MJ-12," describing how an overall UFO cover-up strategy was set in motion by General Nathan Twining and others immediately after the Roswell incident -- just as researchers such as Stanton Friedman have long surmised. The official cover-up was a highly-orchestrated process with two parallel objectives: first, to keep the most sensitive facts about alien technology and visitations away from America's enemies, which necessarily meant keeping them from the general population; and second, to gradually desensitize the public with a mix of real and nonsensical UFO information, toward some future time when the reality of alien visitation would become public knowledge. Corso takes credit for making sure that the U.S. high-tech industry took full advantage of what could be learned from Roswell.

If he were not a highly-decorated, highly-credible military officer, Colonel Philip Corso would likely be passed off by most people as a blatant hoaxer. But what would this soldier stand to gain at the end of an illustrious career, if his story was untrue? One thing is certain: in this Roswell-happy year, "The Day After Roswell" will push the controversy to new heights. (JG)

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CROP CIRCLE WATCH:
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THE FINAL WORD ON OLIVER'S CASTLE VIDEO?
(Source: Peter Sorenson, CROP CIRCLE CONNECTOR UPDATE, 6/2/97)

Is there anyone in the crop circle universe who doesn't know about the person who mysteriously appeared last August circulating a videotape which purportedly showed a crop circle materializing beneath flying balls of light at a place called Oliver's Castle, in England, and then just as mysteriously disappeared? The brouhaha in the wake of the video nearly eclipsed the circles themselves, which was incredible, considering the unprecedented formations of the 1996 season.

Peter Sorenson, an American crop circle researcher and documentary filmmaker, has come forth with what he claims is definitive proof that the video is a hoax, with the hope that it will drive the final nail into the coffin and to put the matter to rest. He claims that very early on, he suspected a hoax, but would not publicly express his opinion because he didn't want to give any energy to the matter. What made him come forward and publish a lengthy account of his beliefs in the latest CROP CIRCLE CONNECTOR UPDATE was the criticism heaped on his friend and colleague Colin Andrews, who had stated earlier that he thought the Oliver's Castle video was a hoax.

Sorenson met the mysterious cameraman, John Wheyleigh, in person shortly after the video was taken, and had a high-quality copy of the original made in a video studio in Swindon, where he was able to view and analyze the footage on a professional system with slow motion and enlargement capabilities. Sorenson has 20 years of experience in computer animation. With the help of a technician at the video studio, he discovered what he believes is the smoking gun which makes all other arguments meaningless unless this point can be adequately explained.

When you stop a movie projector you get a single still picture, but a frame of video is composed of two images captured a moment apart. If there is significant motion during that moment, you'll see a flickering effect caused by the two alternating fields. The balls of light on the original video show no such flickering when the tape is paused, despite their apparent hundred-mile-per-hour speed. If they were captured with a normal video camera, the lights should move between each of the fields, but they don't! However, computer animation systems CAN produce exactly that result. An examination of blades of grass blowing in the wind confirms that a normal camera was used to video the original scene. Sorenson firmly believes that the moving lights were animated with a computer and added to the scene, as was the appearance of the crop formation itself. He also believes that the original camera was mounted on a tripod and the shaky hand-held effect was added in postproduction.

Sorenson concludes, "This tape was made by mischievous or malevolent humans, and their goal was precisely to cause confusion and acrimony! They've been laughing their asses off as they read the magazine articles and the debate on the Internet. They'll be snickering for years."

For the complete story, see: <http://alpha.mic.dundee.ac.uk/ft/crop_circles/anasazi/whatsnew.html>. (JG)

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PSI WATCH:
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IS THE BIBLE A SECRET CODE?
(Sources: Sharon Begley, NEWSWEEK, 6/9/97; Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY, 6/4/97)

In his recently-published book, "The Bible Code," author Michael Drosnin makes the remarkable claim that the first five books of the Bible are written in a secret code that has been predicting the future for thousands of years. Jews believe that these first five books (The Torah) were dictated word for word by God to Moses. Drosnin takes all 304,805 letters in the books and applies some high-powered code-breaking computer programs to reveal hidden messages.

Some of the messages he claims to have uncovered are, "President Kennedy, to die, Dallas;" "1929, economic collapse;" "Hitler, Nazi and enemy, slaughter;" "Wright brothers, airplane;" "Edison, electricity, light bulb;" "Japan, 1945, atomic holocaust;" "Watergate, president, but he was kicked out;" and "Shoemaker-Levy will pound Jupiter." In 1994, when Drosnin discovered the cryptic message: "Yitzhak Rabin, assassin will assassinate," he immediately flew to Israel to warn the prime minister. One year later, Rabin was gunned down. One detail near Rabin's name that Drosnin missed at the time was the word "Amir" -- the name of Rabin's assassin. Some predictions for the future that Drosnin has uncovered are that a catastrophic quake will strike Los Angeles in 2010, and that within ten years a world war will begin with an atomic attack on Jerusalem.

Most scholars are skeptical of Drosnin's claims. HARVARD UNIVERSITY mathematician Shlomo Sternberg, who is also an orthodox rabbi, comments, "You can become clever at manipulating text, making something appear that looks miraculous." Harold Gans, a retired cryptologist with the NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY, dismisses the book, "Mathematically, the likelihood of your being able to find something like 'Rabin,' is very high. You could [even] find 'Drosnin is the Messiah.' Looking for four or five key words makes no sense. You cannot develop a meaningful statistic on it." When Brendan McKay of AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY applied a similar computer program to the Hebrew version of "War and Peace," he got 59 words related to Chanukah, including, "Miracle of Lights," and "Maccabees." The odds for this happening are more than a quadrillion to one. Perhaps the most damning criticism comes from Eliyahu Rips of HEBREW UNIVERSITY, who conducted a similar computer study of the Book of Genesis in 1994. Rips states, "I do not support the book nor the conclusions it derives. [The book] has no value." (JG)

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WEATHER WATCH:
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EL NINO BREWING AGAIN?
(Source: NASA Press Release. 5/29/97, thanks to Chris Czech)

Sea-surface height measurements taken by the radar altimeter onboard the joint U.S.-French TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite and wind data collected by the NASA Scatterometer (NASCAT) on Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS) suggest that another weather-disrupting El Nino condition may be developing in the Pacific Ocean, with the potential of altering global weather patterns next winter. The El Nino phenomenon is thought to be triggered when steady westward blowing trade winds weaken and even reverse direction. This change in the winds allows the large mass of warm water that normally is located near Australia to move eastward along the equator until it reaches the coast of South America. This displaced pool of unusually warm water affects where rain clouds form and, consequently, alters the atmospheric jet stream patterns around the world. The change in the wind strength and direction also impacts global weather patterns.

"NSCAT has observed two episodes of the reversal of the trade winds in the western Pacific, one at the end of December and one at the end of February. Both generated warm water masses, called Kelvin waves, that travelled across the Pacific," said Dr. Lee-Lueng Fu, TOPEX/POSEIDON project scientist at NASA's JET PROPULSION LABORATORY (JPL), Pasadena, Ca. "Whether an El Nino event will occur cannot be determined by just examining the satellite data," Fu continued. "A computer model that couples ocean-atmosphere data, like the one used by the NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA), is a necessary tool to issue scientifically based predictions. Now, for the first time, both TOPEX/POSEIDON and NSCAT are providing the best, near real-time view of global ocean winds and sea level ever obtained. These observations will help NOAA's model to predict the occurrence of El Nino." NOAA has issued an advisory regarding the presence of the early indications of El Nino conditions. A number of El Nino forecast activities supported by NOAA indicate the likelihood of a moderate or strong El Nino in late 1997.

The climatic event has been given the name El Nino, a Spanish term for a "boy child," because the warm current first appeared off the coast of South America around Christmas. Past El Nino events have caused unusually heavy rain and flooding in California, unseasonably mild winters in the Eastern U.S. and severe droughts in Australia, Africa and Indonesia. El Nino episodes occur approximately every two to seven years.

The TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite uses an altimeter to bounce radar signals off the ocean's surface to get precise measurements of the distance between the satellite and the sea surface. Every ten days, scientists produce a complete map of global ocean topography, the barely perceptible hills and valleys found on the sea surface. With detailed knowledge of ocean topography, scientists can then calculate the speed and direction of worldwide ocean currents. The NASA scatterometer uses an array of stick-like antennas that radiate radar pulses across broad regions of the Earth's surface. The way the radar signal bounces off the ocean's surface allows scientists to calculate both wind speed and direction. The scatterometer takes 190,000 wind measurements per day, mapping more than 90 percent of the world's ice-free oceans every two days. (JG)

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HEALTH WATCH:
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A BETTER WAY TO DIE
(Source: John Horgan, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 5/97)

One of the nagging ironies of modern medicine is that while it has enormously extended life spans, it has also stretched out the dying process. In his book, "Science and Immortality," published in 1908, physician William Osler reported that only one in five dying people seemed to be suffering in their final days. For "the great majority," he stated, "death was a sleep, and a forgetting." Of the 2.5 million people who now die annually in the U.S., roughly two thirds succumb after a protracted struggle with a chronic disease. The dying are also increasingly sequestered from the rest of society; the number of deaths occurring in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions has rising steadily from the 1930s to nearly 80 percent today.

Given this situation, it is hardly surprising that euthanasia is winning so many adherents. Polls now show that the majority of Americans support the right of patients to receive a lethal overdose from their doctors. Many health care workers privately admit to having helped patients die. One study revealed that 20 percent of nurses working in intensive care units acknowledged having deliberately hastened the death of a patient, and another study found that half the doctors who were treating patients with AIDS had prescribed lethal doses of drugs. The issue has riven the health care community, but this dispute masks a deep consensus among health care experts that much can and should be done to improve the care of the dying. While the media have focused on the issue of euthanasia, a diverse collection of physicians' groups, hospitals and other health care organizations has quietly begun seeking alternative solutions. The avenues being explored include treating the physical and psychological distress more aggressively, relaxing restrictions on the use of opioids, educating health care workers and the public about the needs of the terminally ill, and expanding the use of hospices, which emphasize comfort rather than cure.

The most comprehensive investigation of the problems posed by end-of-life care is the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT), which tracked 9,000 severely ill patients in the early '90s. According to reports of family members, 40 percent of patients who were conscious experienced severe pain "most of the time," and more than 25 percent were anxious or depressed. None of the patients requested euthanasia. Given the uncertainties of medical prognoses, the tendency of extremely ill patients to cling to life makes sense: 28 percent of patients suffering from congestive heart failure and given only six months to live, survive for at least another year, and 13 percent of cancer patients given six months survive a year or more.

In 1983, MEDICARE began covering hospice services. Since 1985, the number of hospice providers in the U.S. has surged from 500 to more than 2,500 and some 400,000 patients -- one sixth of all those dying -- now receive hospice care each year in the U.S., according to the NATIONAL HOSPICE ORGANIZATION in Arlington, Va. Most people receiving hospice care are either dying of cancer or AIDS. Hospice care is economical -- MEDICARE spends 50 percent less on hospice patients in the last month of their lives than those receiving conventional treatment in hospitals.

There have been enormous advances in the management of pain. Drugs can be delivered through skin patches, topical creams and implanted pumps. New automated delivery systems, which measure levels of medication in the blood, can stop pain before it starts while minimizing side effects. In the course of her career, Kathleen M. Foley of the MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER in New York City, has repeatedly encountered patients asking to be put out of their misery. But in almost every case, the requests abated after the patients received supportive care, including analgesics, antidepressants or counselling. She opposes legalizing physician-assisted suicide, which she denigrates as "treating suffering by eliminating the sufferer." Foly advocates monitoring pain as a "vital sign" along with the other important parameters.

This summer, the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (AMA) plans to launch a program to educate physicians about palliative care. Spearheading the program is AMA's Director of the INSTITUTE FOR ETHICS, Linda L. Emmanuel, whose goal is "to directly train about half of all physicians" in the U.S., "and indirectly reach all the others," and in doing so to "change the culture of medicine." (JG)

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MILLENNIUM NOTES:
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MILLENNIUM BUG COUNTDOWN
(Source: Steven Levy and Katie Hafner, NEWSWEEK, 6/2/97)

There is an increasing chance that many people will wake up on the morning of January 1, 2000 with a terrible headache. The pain won't be caused so much by the previous night's celebration of the arrival of the New Millennium, as being bitten by the Millennium Bug. The problem started out innocuously enough. In the early days of computers when memory was expensive and limited, programmers reduced the calendar date to six characters -- DDMMYY. The protocol was continued even when memory became cheap, and six-figure calendar dates became embedded in applications as varied as programs for ATMs, elevators, computerized car engines, traffic lights, credit cards, parking garages, and subway trains, as well as virtually every computerized business and government agency on Earth -- all of which may come to a screeching halt on 010100, an absolutely meaningless number to an untrained computer.

Scientists are now calling the cure for the Millennium Bug, also referred to as the Year 2000 Problem or Y2K, as the most ambitious and costly technology project in history, and ironically one where the payoff is not profit, but survival. It was a problem everyone saw coming, but no one wanted to acknowledge. And the closer it gets to the year 2000, the more expensive the fix. The current estimate by the GARTNER GROUP is $600 billion world wide.

One would think that the solution would be easy; after all, it's just two digits. But the dates are buried in trillion of lines of computer code, appearing on average once every 50 lines. To complicate matters, much of original programming is written in obscure computer languages like COBOL that are quirky, undocumented and no longer well known.

Already the first indications of the magnitude of the problem are starting to make themselves felt:

-- Computers at MARKS & SPENCERS in Britain ordered the destruction of tons of food with pull dates later than 1999, thinking they were 100 years old.

-- At a state prison which prefers to remain anonymous, a computer misunderstood post-1999 release dates of prisoners and freed them prematurely.

-- In Kansas, a 104-year-old woman was ordered to report to kindergarten.

-- Check the expiry dates on your credit cards. It is unlikely that any go beyond 11/99. VISA has already had to recall cards with Year 2000 expiry dates, because their central computer thought they had expired during the McKinley administration.

The big question is: Will the bug be fixed in time? Merrill Lynch is taking the matter so seriously it has set up an 80-person Y2K division working in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The work will cost the company $200 million. In 1995, BANKBOSTON, the 15th largest U.S. bank, realized it had a problem that could bring it to its knees, and began to aggressively probe its 60 million lines of computer code, assigning 40 people to the job. With the year 2000 still more than 2 1/2 years away, BANKBOSTON is admitting that it cannot get the whole job done in time and has started to think triage -- focussing only on what is essential. THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION started working on the problem eight years ago, and has it 65 percent licked. At that rate it will almost make the deadline. Canadian computer guru Peter de Jager warns, "If you're not changing code by November of this year, you will not get the thing done in time." By the time 1998 rolls around, most of the commercial world will obsessed with the Bug. "Pretty soon, we'll just have to stop doing other work," says Leo Verheul of California's DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES.

As bad as things appear in the U.S., the rest of the world is lagging far behind. Britain has just recently awakened to the crisis as a bad dream that won't go away. On the Continent, where most of the information-processing energy is devoted to Euro-curency, things are even worse; in fact, observers feel it might already be too late for countries like Germany and France to tackle the 2000 problem. Nigel Martin-Jones of DATA DIMENSIONS sums things up, "There are two kinds of people: those who aren't working on it and aren't worried, and those who are working on it and are terrified."

A few helpful hints before you go out and party on New Years Eve, 1999:

-- Keep backup records (paper and floppy) of everything you can't afford to lose, including bank balances, credit card statements, and utility bills.

-- Fill up the gas tank of your car and have plenty of cash or traveller's checks on hand.

-- Don't plan to be in an elevator, car, subway train or airplane just as midnight arrives.

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Most people aren't so concerned by billion-dollar multinationals sweating it out to beat the Millennium Bug by the year 2000, as they are about how it will affect their own home computers. The component in question is called the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) which contains the machine's internal clock and calendar and starts the computer before the operating system, like Windows 95 or System 7.5, kicks in. If you have a PC that is less than two years old, chances are that it has a BIOS that will be unaffected by the dawn of the year 2000. Older machines might revert back to 1980 on January 1, 2000. Fixing the problem is relatively easy -- just set the date with normal Windows or DOS commands. The next version of Windows 95 will fix the problem automatically. Older computers, such as the 386 and 486 will probably need a BIOS upgrade. APPLE computer users don't have anything to worry about. Older Mac systems won't run into problems until 2040, while current systems are good until 29,940 A.D.

Software is a separate issue. MICROSOFT claims that all of its products store dates in the four-digit form. The makers of Quicken say that it will behave when 2000 arrives. If you are one of the few using the eight-year-old DOS 3.0 or older, your computer will not roll over to the year 2000, but it's probably time for an upgrade anyway.

If you have any doubts about the performance of your home computer or software, contact the manufacturers directly and ask how "Year 2000 friendly" are their products. Leave yourself a little lead time, just in case some sort of fix is required. (JG)

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TECH WATCH:
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SMALL FRY
(Source: Steve Mirsky, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, June/97)

One day, as UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE entomologist Douglas Tellamy was idly watching an electronic bug zapper accumulate a growing mound of smoking insects, he wondered how many were actually female mosquitoes. (Only the females bite.) The next day, when he was approached by high school student Tim Frick who was looking for research experience, he decided to delve deeper into the matter. For nine weeks, the two analyzed the spoils of six neighborhood bug zappers in suburban Newark, Delaware, all near water, and found that of the 13,789 dead bugs, only 18 were female mosquitoes. There were also 13 other varieties of biting flies, for a grand total of 31 hazardous insects.

Tallamy figured the low numbers of dead female mosquitoes were the result of faulty thinking on the part of the bug-zapper manufacturers -- female mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, not the ultraviolet light these devices use. Tallamy concluded that "electric insect traps are worthless for biting fly reduction."

Assuming that his numbers were representative, Tallamy figured that four million zappers nationwide running for 40 summer nights could be blasting to charcoal some 71 billion insects, most of which were not harmful. Not only was it a waste of electricity, but the loss of such numbers of insects could be putting a dent in delicate food chains.

Tallamy's findings paralleled the results of a 1983 study by Roger Nasci, now at the CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, who found "the average zapper in South Bend, Indiana killed more than 3,000 insects per day, 96.7 percent of which were not female mosquitoes."

Tellamy is now being threatened with a lawsuit by a insect-electrocution device manufacturer who takes exception to his use of the word "worthless." Tallamy is standing by his statement. (JG)

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WOMEN & TECHNOLOGY
(Source: Deborah Zabarenko, REUTERS, 5/30/97)

Contrary to the popular perception that working women fear technology, a recent survey has found that they embrace technology as a business ally. "Women view technology as the leveler," pollster Joel Benenson said. "They see it as an integral tool in the workplace." On-the-job use of technology was also seen as a battering ram for the so-called glass ceiling, according to the survey. Among the more than 400 women surveyed, 80 percent saw technology as a way to get into traditionally male-dominated fields, and 75 percent attributed recent advancement at work to how well they used technology. But computer use alone did not determine women's success at work; women who used at least three other kinds of technology in addition to computers, such as cell phones, faxes and voice mail, were more likely to earn more than those who just used computers. Benenson said one salient finding of the survey was the overwhelming confidence women had in technology, with 85 percent saying they were confident about technology as opposed to worried about it. "The message for employers is that they should make every effort to treat women equally, particularly when it comes to technology, and work diligently to set aside any stereotypical notions that they may have," Benenson said. "Women like technology -- they see it as a tool of advancement." The survey was commissioned by AVON PRODUCTS INC., after women entrepreneurs who had been honored by the company overwhelmingly said one key to their success had been technology. (JG)

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SPACE WATCH:
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NEW CLASS OF COMETS: FRIEND OR FOE?
(Sources: Bill Eatwell, CNI NEWS, 6/1/97; AUFORA NEWS UPDATE, 5/28/97; REUTERS, 5/28/97; NASA Press Release, 5/28/97, thanks to Chris Czech)

In 1986, after spending more than a dozen years studying mysterious dark spots in the Earth's atmosphere originally captured in NASA satellite images from space, Professor Louis Frank of the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA presented his findings to the AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION. Based on his research, he believed that the dark spots were the result of the breakup of small comet snowballs punching holes in the earth's atmosphere. His report was received with derision, and he was practically hooted off the stage.

However, using new high-powered cameras aboard the Polar satellite orbiting high above the Arctic Circle, a research team led by Dr. Frank has recently detected water-bearing objects comparable to small comets relentlessly bombarding Earth. The incoming objects, which Frank estimates to be the size of a small house, streak toward Earth, disintegrate at high altitudes and deposit large clouds of water vapor in the upper atmosphere. According to Frank, the objects don't seem to pose an immediate threat to people on Earth, nor to astronauts in orbit, since they break up at 600 to 15,000 miles above the Earth. "In fact, this relatively gentle 'cosmic rain,' which possibly contains simple organic compounds, may well have nurtured the development of life on our planet." 5 to 30 of these comets smash into the atmosphere every minute, and it is speculated that millions of tons of water are dumped on Earth this way every year, although this accounts for only about one ten-thousandth of an inch of water.

The Polar cameras have imaged trails of light in both ultraviolet and visible wavelengths as the objects disintegrate above the atmosphere. Using a filter that detects visible light emitted only by fragments of water molecules, Frank has shown that the objects consist primarily of water. "The images show that we have a large population of objects in the Earth's vicinity that have not been detected before." The water vapor they produce momentarily absorbs the ultraviolet solar radiation scattered from oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere, resulting in dark spots, typically with diameters of 15 to 25 miles. Not only do the new images from Polar show the atmospheric holes in much greater detail than before, they also vindicate Frank's earlier observations.

Images of the comets and the atmospheric holes can be found on NASA's Web site at: <http://pao.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/newsroom/flash/flash.htm>.

In 1990, Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of the UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, Cardiff in England had theorized in their book, "Cosmic Life-Force," that "life on Earth originated from and has been continually influenced by the influx of freeze-dried cosmic bacteria carried by comets and other celestial objects." The authors don't think these organisms are as benign and friendly as Frank does; they were of the opinion that "the incidence of such microorganisms from space could explain the phenomenon of epidemic diseases." They also submitted evidence that past major epidemics, occurring at different places on this planet simultaneously, were the result of large injections of comet material into the atmosphere. Data was also presented which strongly supports the theory that viruses originating from these comets are expelled seasonally from the upper atmosphere by meteorological effects such as rain and storms. (JG)

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